North Korea says it will continue on economic path

Economic plans remain unchanged despite purge of man associated with reforms, says senior official

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, along with his aunt Kim Kyong Hui attends a statue unveiling ceremony in Pyongyang, North Korea, on the anniversary of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s birthday last February. Photograph: KRT via AP Video, File

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, along with his aunt Kim Kyong Hui attends a statue unveiling ceremony in Pyongyang, North Korea, on the anniversary of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il’s birthday last February. Photograph: KRT via AP Video, File

 


North Korea has sought to quell external speculation following the execution of Kim Jong-un’s uncle, with a senior official saying its economic plans remain unchanged despite the purge of the man associated with reforms.

Jang Song-thaek’s removal for planning to overthrow the state, corruption and other offences has increased concern about the direction of the country, given his family ties and powerful role.

US secretary of state John Kerry said yesterday Jang’s execution was “an ominous sign of instability” and analysts will be watching for clues when the elite gather tomorrow to mark the second anniversary of the death of Kim Jong-il, the current leader’s father.

Kim Jong-un’s aunt, Kim Kyong-hui, was mentioned in official media on Saturday for the first time since her husband’s removal. Named as one of those organising the funeral of a senior cadre, it indicated that she had not lost her position.

Transition of power
She too rose to prominence as her brother prepared for the transition of power and was seen as a mentor to her nephew, although women have not been permitted to play much of a role in North Korean politics. Meanwhile, a senior official in Pyongyang said North Korea would press ahead with plans for new economic development zones to attract foreign investors, one of the measures that has convinced some analysts reform is on the way.

Yun Yong-suk, a senior official in the state economic development committee, said: “Even though Jang Song- thaek’s group caused great harm to our economy, there will be no change at all in the economic policy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It’s just the same as before.”

Investment welcomed
He added: “Our state economic development committee welcomes investment and business from any country to take part in the work of developing our new economic zones.”

John Delury, an expert on North Korea at Yonsei University in Seoul, said it was natural to consider how people or issues tied to Mr Jang might be affected by his fall. Mr Jang was associated with changes to the economy and had played a key role in dealings with China. “I’m actually struck by how they are showing that this is not about economic reform; and I’m pretty sure that, as long as she can walk, [Kim Kyong-hui] will be there for the memorial of her brother’s death,” he said. “I don’t think this is about shutting down China [either]; I think other people want that portfolio.”

Seoul’s Yonhap news agency said North Korean business people in China have been recalled, but Mr Delury said there were reports officials had been sending messages to their Chinese counterparts to reassure them that it was business as usual. State media has urged people to rally around their leader. The Daily NK website said North Koreans had been called to meetings promoting loyalty to Kim Jong-un. – (Guardian service)